Thank Supporters and Donors: Your Ultimate Guide

Easy ways to thank your donors and volunteers

Thank your donors, supporters, and volunteers. It is so important. Most nonprofit leaders already know this, but it can be easier said than done. Who do you thank? How do you distinguish between different donors, or should you? How do you thank them all?

The Proper Motivation

Thanking donors and supporters is definitely the right thing to do and a way to express your gratitude, but it is also a strategic way to build on relationships you’ve already established. Done right, this type of recognition can bring in future gifts and continued involvement. Done poorly, the wrong move could send donors and volunteers away.

Whatever you decide to do, be heartfelt and thoughtful. Your primary motivation should be gratitude. If future donations and partnerships come, that’s great, but it is secondary. Interactions with others are important, and can mean a lifetime of support, whether that be in financial form or in volunteer hours. You want your recognition to be meaningful and memorable.

thank supporters and donors

Nonprofits typically don’t have the deep pockets for lavish gifts or big donor events. In fact, you likely don’t want to have a lavish layout. If you do, donors will wonder why you’re spending money on luxury instead of mission needs. Luckily, you don’t have to spend a lot of money. Here are some very creative ways to let donors, volunteers and other supporters know how much they’re appreciated.

Website and Social Media

Your organization’s website and social media platforms offer a fantastic, free way to show appreciation for donors, volunteers and partners. Many nonprofits have a stewardship section on their websites. You’d be surprised how much appeal this has to current and potential supporters, and it’s easy to do. Be personal about the impact each donor has made. Use testimonials to demonstrate the effect on actual people. For volunteers, consider developing a volunteer of the month program, and feature each volunteer’s story. They’ll love it and feel appreciated.

Annual Reports

This is really a given—donors at varying levels should always be mentioned in an annual report or any other major fundraising event. By having donor appreciation in the annual report, there is a direct tie between the donation and the actual number of people served and helped. Many nonprofits choose to profile an individual or corporate donor in each newsletter they send throughout the year.

Have a Party

Having a party is always a great idea. Most donors like exclusivity, so having a fun and inexpensive—but exclusive event—is fun for donors and a great way for them to interact with your staff. Choose a fun and relaxed environment rather than a stuffy one. Everyone will be more comfortable. Don’t make it too “heavy” an event, meaning don’t ask for more donations. The idea is to have a social gathering to say “thank you.” Events like this can serve double duty because you can ask potential donors to attend as well. They can learn about your organization and the success stories and impact you have had. Local breweries or restaurants are often fun, casual places to hold events like this, and often the business will reduce prices for a nonprofit.

RELATED: Board Persuasion Guide for the Executive Director

Video Message

If your donors are across the country and not able to easily attend a party in person, consider creating a thank you video to acknowledge donor or volunteer contributions throughout the year. Adding faces and voices to your message makes the thank-you so much more personal. Keep it simple, fun, and heartfelt. A video of about five minutes in length is ideal, and can be shared on your website and social media.

Handwritten Notes and Phone Calls

When was the last time you received a handwritten note? You likely nearly fell out of your chair, because people don’t write notes these days. In a world of email and texting, a personal handwritten thank-you note can go a long way to let donors know how much you appreciate them. You can write this at the end of the year, but even better is to write it within two days of their donation. You can also write notes during the holiday season and on the anniversary of their first donation. These are very heartfelt ways to show gratitude. Some nonprofits even have board members sign thank-you letters, or write brief notes to include in appeal letters. This shows an extra level of personal investment in donors, and can really help them feel appreciated.

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Phone calls are also a very personal way to say thank you. Donors know executive directors are busy, so receiving a phone call from you is noticed and appreciated. Many nonprofit directors make it a point to call at least one major donor every month. It is a great way to build rapport. You should also consider doing the same to thank supporters who have gone out of their way to help the mission in non-monetary ways.

Photo Book

A small memory photo book can be easily and inexpensively produced. Create a look back at photos from your big events of the year. For example, perhaps you’ve had a building campaign. A photo book showing groundbreaking to final project is a great way to thank donors and supporters, and is also a wonderful reminder of how their time and money has been used. This is a great way to thank volunteers who may have donated countless hours to the project to see it to completion, too.

Say Thanks

Regardless of how you decide to do it, always say “thank you” to your supporters. Be grateful and appreciative. Donors contribute because they believe in your cause, but a little gratitude is so appreciated. Just remember, when others see colleagues, friends and family being recognized in this way, they might consider supporting your organization as well.

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